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A STUDY OF STRATEGIC LEVEL SPIRITUAL WARFARE FROM A CHINESE PERSPECTIVE

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A STUDY OF STRATEGIC LEVEL SPIRITUAL WARFARE FROM A CHINESE PERSPECTIVE
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  [  AJPS 9:1 (2006), pp. 143-161]A STUDY OF STRATEGIC LEVEL SPIRITUAL WARFAREFROM A CHINESE PERSPECTIVESamuel Hio-Kee Ooi1. IntroductionSince the 1990s terms like “strategic level spiritual warfare”(SLSW), “territorial spirits,” and “spiritual mapping,” with its “newstrategy” imported in the name of spiritual warfare and evangelism, arespreading among Christian churches throughout the world, and this is noexception in Chinese churches in Southeast Asia, including Sabah,Malaysia where I live. I moved to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to teach in aseminary more than two years ago. This city is filled with a mixture of indigenous people groups, including Kadazan, Dozon, Murut, etc, andChinese, as well as Muslim Malay. That many of the indigenous groupsare Christians does not mean a total discard of their traditional animisticworldviews and practices. Chinese popular religious practices 1 arecommon and different gods are worshipped in Kota Kinabalu as in otherChinese communities. 2 Spirit possessions are frequently heard of. Andduring Chinese New Year season this year, one of my students had a“battle” with the spirit of Guan-yin ( 觀音 ), a Bodhisava contextualized inChinese Buddhism, who possessed her elder sister’s body. Another 1 The writer understands that scholars of Chinese religions nowadays prefer thedesignation “common religion” rather than “popular religion.” In this article bothwill be used. The former will be used if it is to represent the view of the commonstudy of Chinese religions, while the latter is used especially when connotation of superstition is hinted. 2 Once in one of my lectures touching on Buddhism, I invited a Christian whoused to be a follower of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism before he became a Christiantwo years ago. He shared how he carried out rites at home more than two-thirdsof the days in one year for religious purposes, of which one is to attain to a levelin meditation where one can see and communicate with gods, such as Buddha,Bodhisava and others.   Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 9:1 (2006)144student in my “World Religions” class shared about his friend andco-worker in a plantation camp some years ago. This friend was aplanchetter (ji-tong, 乩 童 ) and whenever the spirit came to him, hewould quickly take off all the metals on his body, just before he wascompletely taken over by the spirit.Chinese Christians, having converted from Chinese religions toChristianity and being introduced into a new belief system, are losingtheir old beliefs, but they are not able to hold on to a westernizedChristianity which has dismissed what Paul Hiebert defines as the middlerealm, 3 and which I would term as the “world of spirits.” Nevertheless,Paul Hiebert himself does not approve of the practice of SLSW. 4 It isclear that one’s relationship with the “spiritual world” ceases or is cut off as one enters into the kingdom of God in Christ. But for those who take afurther step in trying to figure out how these two realities relate to oneanother, they often find the church owing them a teaching that isbiblically sound and relevant to them. Apparently, a theological andcontextual gap must be bridged, and a conceptual and experiential voidmust be filled up. This is how SLSW ideas find their way into ChineseChristian churches today and why a contextual theological reflectionfrom a Chinese perspective is needed.This article will not be an exhaustive study of all related issuespertaining to SLSW. 5 The writer will first introduce the teachings of  3 Paul Hiebert, “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle,”  Missiology 10 (January1982), pp. 35-47. See Van Rheenen, Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts  (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), pp. 54-55. 4 See Paul Hiebert, “Spiritual Warfare and Worldview” (http://www.lausanne.org/Brix?pageID=13887), checked: August 19, 2005. 5 Similar review of SLSW teachings from a Malaysia perspective is Jeffrey OhSiew Tee, “Spiritual Warfare: A Challenge Facing the Malaysia Church,”  Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary Theological Journal 2 (April 2004), pp.39-52. The article shows its sympathy on SLSW, but rejects its mechanistic viewon spiritual world and equally mechanistic approach for intercessory prayers. Formore detail discussion on the theology and presupposition in SLSW teachingfrom an Asian perspective see Wai Kiong Chung, “Territorial Spirits: A Study”[Chinese], Pastor Journal 10 (Nov 2000, Hong Kong), pp. 123-50. I agree withChung’s position, although my focus is more on how such a teaching inclines toresemble a Chinese monolithic-pantheistic worldview. Recent papers dedicated tothe study of spiritual warfare or territorial spirits can be found on LausanneCommittee of World Evangelization,www.lausanne.org, especially the paperspresented in the “Deliver us from Evil Consultation” held at Nairobi, Kenya in2000. Two papers in the consultation are worth mentioning: “Gaining Perspective  Ooi,  A Study of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare 145SLSW, followed up by a brief introduction to the hierarchical pantheismsystem in Chinese popular religion, the practice of demon-castingperformed in Chinese shamanism, namely by “planchetter” (ji-tong ) and“shaman-master” (fa-shi, 法師 ), which will be concluded by making afew comments on the similarities and differences between these twosystems.2. Strategic Level Spiritual WarfareThe concepts of SLSW, “territorial spirits,” and “spiritual mapping” 6  are advocated by George Otis, 7 Peter Wagner, 8 Cindy Jacobs, 9 andmany others who associate themselves with the New ApostolicMovement/Reformation camp. 10  The technical term SLSW first appeared in the books of the abovethree advocates in the early 1990s. 11 In their books they propose a on Territorial Spirits” by A. Scott Moreau, and “Some Issues in a SystematicTheology That Takes Seriously the Demonic” by Hwa Yung. Both papers showconcern on SLSW. The former one has a moderate critique and does not approveof its “strategic” idea and techniques. 6 The three quoted names are indeed interchangeable. See C. Peter Wagner, ed.,  Breaking Strongholds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective, and Targeted  (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1993). 7 For example, The Twilight Labyrinth (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997). 8 For example, Warfare Prayer: How to Seek God’s Power and Protection in the Battle to Build His Kingdom , Prayer Warrior Series (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1992); Churches That Pray (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1993). 9 For example, Possessing the Gates of the Enemy: A Training Manual for  Militant Intercession , 2 nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Chosen, 1994). 10 See Clinton E. Arnold, Three Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare  (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), ch. 3. These three figures are just the prominentamong those who join the Spiritual Warfare Network (SWN). For my discussionof New Apostolic Reformation/Movement, see Hio-kee Ooi, “Old Wine in NewWineskins: A Preliminary Study on the New Apostolic Movement and theChallenge of Complexity Leadership,”  Hill Road  7:2 (Dec 2004), pp. 145-68. 11 See also the summary of Charles H. Kraft, “Contemporary Trends in theTreatment of Spiritual Conflict,” in  Deliver Us from Evil: An Uneasy Frontier inChristian Mission , eds. A. Scott Moreau, et al. (Monrovia, CA: World VisionInternational, 2002), pp. 177-202, and for related bibliography, his footnotes.   Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 9:1 (2006)146spiritual warfare for effective evangelism based on testimonies they haveheard, mainly from what happened in South America. In brief, theteaching of SLSW swirls around two basic concepts: “territorial spirits”and “strongholds.”2.1 Territorial SpiritsAccording to the teaching of SLSW, there are specific evil spiritsthat rule over a community, village, town, city or country. They arecalled “territorial spirits.” The spirits of the particular areas always havepower and authority over the people to keep them in bondage, sin anddarkness, sometimes to the extent that even the gospel itself cannotpenetrate before they are “identified,” “bound,” “overcome” and“rebuked” in prayer. 12  According to another Christian website dedicated to this study,SLSW “is a popular charismatic method of casting out demons fromgeographical locations or territories.” 13 The demonic control of thespirits over one geographical area can even be identified on three levels,namely: first, the “ground-level” demons, which possess people; second,“occult-level” demons, which empower witches, shamans, andmagicians; and the final, “strategic-level” demons, which are the mostpowerful of the three. The last ones are said to rule over certain largeregions or territories. 14 However, whether the area is large enough to beclaimed by a “strategic level” demon is not clearly defined. It is pointedout that the demon’s main purpose is to hinder people from coming toChrist. 15  According to Peter Wagner in a symposium on power evangelism atFuller Theological Seminary, “Satan delegates high-ranking members of the hierarchy of evil spirits to control nations, regions, cities, tribes,people groups, neighborhoods and other significant social networks of  Kraft endorses a great deal of the spiritual mapping, prayer walk and SLSWteachings, as long as these are not a “fast-foods” evangelism. 12 David Stamen, “Territorial Spirits” (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/ russ01uk/clients/dstamen/terrspirits.htm), checked: June 4, 2004. 13 See “Just Give Me the Facts New Apostolic Reformation,” Age Two Age—ADiscernment Ministry, 2000-2002 (http://www.agetwoage.org/ ApostolicJustFacts1.htm), p. 13, checked: June 4, 2004. 14 “Just Give Me the Facts New Apostolic Reformation,” pp. 13-14. 15 See Chung, “Territorial Spirits: A Study,” pp. 127-29.  Ooi,  A Study of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare 147human beings throughout the world. Their major assignment is to preventGod from being glorified in their territory, which they do throughdirecting the activity of lower-ranking demons.” 16 Thus, we can inferthat a troop of Satan’s delegates—evil spirits and demons—“keep thepeople in their geographical area in darkness, bondage and sin.” 17  2.2 StrongholdsAlthough there are other Scriptures SLSW promoters use to supportthe theory, 18 among them 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 is the most direct passagethat speaks about “strongholds.” According to Cindy Jacobs, thestrongholds could be 1) a personal stronghold, 2) a stronghold of mindand thoughts, 3) a stronghold of ideas and concepts, 4) a stronghold of occultism, 5) a stronghold in society, 6) a stronghold in a city and achurch, and lastly 7) a stronghold where Satan is. 19  It should be understood that all these strongholds are interrelated. Apersonal sin can become a stronghold for Satan in one’s life, and thatcould in turn lead he or she to more lies and deceptions from Satan, andfurther on into occultism, superstitions etc. And if this experience doesnot only just happen to an individual, but overwhelmingly to many in acommunity, a city, or a nation, one can infer that the strongholds of Satanare really present and need to be smashed down through prayers. Andthat's where and when SLSW should be applied. 16 Excerpted from John D. Robb, “Strategic Praying for Frontier Missions,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement  , Study Guide (Pasadena: WilliamCarey Library, 1997), pp. 1-8. See Sandy Simpson and Mike Oppenheimer,compile, “C. Peter Wagner—Quotes & Notes”(http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/wagnerquotes.html), checked: June 4,2004. 17 Stamen, “Territorial Spirits.” 18 Scriptures often used: Dan 10; Rev 12; Jer 1:9, 10; Ezek 4:1-3; Deut 12:2(high places); Matt 12:22-30; 16:15-20; Mark 5:1-19; Acts 19, 13:4-12; 2 Cor10:3-4, etc. 19 Cindy Jacobs, “Facing Strongholds,” in  Breaking Strongholds in Your City  [Chinese], ed. C. Peter Wagner, trans. trans., Xiao-fen Shen (Taipei: Elim, 1998),1998), pp. 61-69.
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